Archive for April, 2007

The Amazing Legacy of Rubik’s Cube

Posted in games, pop culture, puzzles, reviews, Rubik's Cube with tags , , on April 25, 2007 by Paxton

Rubik’s CubeA couple of my co-workers brought in their Rubik’s Cubes and started memorizing how to solve them. They’ve been playing with them for the last several days. It got me thinking about my Cube (which I think is in my storage unit somewhere) and the heyday of The Rubik’s Cube in general. I wanted to take a look at the origin of this cool piece of pop culture and some of the marketing that sprung up around it, including other puzzles in the Rubik’s family.

The Cube was invented in 1974 by Ernő Rubik (see pic to the right). Rubik was a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture with an interest in geometry and the study of three-dimensional forms. Ernő obtained a Hungarian patent for his puzzle in 1975 and the first test batches of the product were produced in late 1977. The toy would then be released to Budapest toy shops as “The Magic Cube”.Erno Rubik

It took several years for Rubik to secure a worldwide distributor but finally convinced IDEAL toys on the potential of the little cube. IDEAL redesigned the puzzle to make the cube lighter and sturdier, and then they decided to rename it. “The Gordian Knot” and “Inca Gold” were considered, but the company finally decided on “Rubik’s Cube”, and the first batch was exported from Hungary in May 1980. The rest as they say, is history.

The popularity of Rubik’s Cube was beyond anything the creator imagined. National and International competitions sprung up to set world records for solving the cube. Soon, the Cube could be seen in commercials, television shows and movies. Even today, the solved version of the Cube will be trotted out on a TV show or movie to prove how smart someone is (anyone see Will Smith’s movie, Pursuit of Happyness?). It’s the resulting pop culture legacy that I want to look at.

Professor cubeDo you remember any of the other products in the Rubik family? The original Rubik’s Cube is a 3x3x3 cube. I remember a keychain version of the 3x3x3 cube being extremely popular in my elementary school. Did you know they also made a standard Rubik’s Cube in braille (click here for a pic)? Pretty cool. IDEAL also released Rubik’s Revenge (4x4x4) and Rubik’s Professor Cubes (5x5x5, see pic to the left). I can’t imagine trying to solve the Professor cube, look at it, it looks like a Star Trek Borg ship. There are also prototypes of other, harder cubes. Click here for video of Rubik professional, Frank Morris, solving a 7x7x7 cube in just over 6 minutes. Not bad, Frank. I bet Mr. Morris subscribed to IDEAL’s monthly Rubik newsletter in the early ’80s. Check it out here.

As for puzzles other than “the cube”, Rubik himself designed Rubik’s Magic. It’s a flat, plastic folding screen with pictures of rings on it. I had trouble figuring out how to work it and usually broke the plastic mechanism. Rubik also developed the Rubik Twist which was a snake-like puzzle that could be formed into different shapes. The twist always seemed somewhat boring to me. A puzzle that many people assume is a Rubik invention is the Pyraminx, but it was invented by another guy named Uwe Meffert. Although not Rubik, it’s still an interesing time-waster.

Rubik The Amazing CubeSpeaking of time wasters, does anyone remember the Saturday morning cartoon show Rubik, The Amazing Cube? Anyone? Hello…? Well, for some reason, I remember it. Before writing this article I remember thinking the theme song kicked all kinds of ass and that it was a really cool show. Well, after a little searching, I found a clip on YouTube from the show. If you click here to view the clip you will see that I was grossly mis-remembering the theme song. GROSSLY. WTF?! What was I thinking? Yikes. Young and dumb is my only defense. I forgot that the little kids in the cartoon could only bring Rubik to life when they solved him. That’s nice that these 10 year olds could pretty much solve the cube, under duress, anytime they wanted. If I was being run down by a guy looking to beat my ass and steal my Rubik, but to save myself I had to solve the little cube, then I’m a goner. Here take the Rubik, don’t hit me in the face, please.

Astor Park CubeApparently there’s a cube sculpture in Astor Park in New York (see pic left). It constantly gets de-faced with graffiti by the neighborhood youth. For a really good prank, a group of guys got together and turned it into a Rubik’s Cube. Click here for a step-by-step journal of them building the sides of the Rubik’s Cube and the late-night raid to put up the finished product. Or, if you are lazy and want to skip to the picture of the finished product, then click here.

Atari 2600 RubikDid any of you have the Atari 2600 cartridge based on the Rubik’s Cube? I kid you not, Atari created a video game based on the Cube. Click here to read all about that debacle at Atari Age (one of my favorite video game sites, by the way). That game may rival E.T. The Extra-terrestrial as the worst game in Atari 2600 history. Yes, E.T. first, Rubik’s Cube second and Pac-Man is third. WAIT!! Donkey Kong, oh my lord, Donkey Kong blew, too. Ummm…..Note to self, that sounds like the beginnings of a future blog article. Moving on…

Where else can I remember seeing the Rubik’s Cube? There was an episode of Seinfeld where George decided to abstain from sex. Because of this he becomes smarter. The longer he goes without sex, the smarter he becomes. In one scene he’s seen easily solving the Rubik’s Cube. Good episode. I remember there was an episode of Growing Pains where Carol was getting ready to interview with a college recruiter and her dad prominently displayed the Rubik’s Cube she completed in the fifth grade. Why was Carol having a college recruiter come to her house for an interview? I mean, I know she was smart, but dang, man. I never got a recruiter to come to my house for an interview.

Cube PiecesWell, that’s some of the ca-RAZY crap you could find thanks to the international phenomenon that was Rubik’s Cube. Do you still have yours? I have mine. I never actually solved it the “correct” way, I just took it apart and put it back together so it is in it’s solved state. Hey, it may not be the way IDEAL intended you to solve it, but it works.

If you want more info on Rubik’s Cube visit the official site at http://www.rubiks.com. They have tons of pictures, information and games for you to play. You can even play a 3-D online version of Rubik’s Cube (click here).

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Diet Coke Plus: Vitamin pills are for water-drinkers!!

Posted in Coca Cola, reviews, soda with tags , , on April 18, 2007 by Paxton

Sodapalooza

Are you taking vitamin supplements once a day? That’s just plain crazy. Do you wish that you could drink in not only your daily caffeine intake, but your vitamin/mineral supplements as well? Well the soda genie has decided to grant you this wish. Now you can get caffeine and vitamins (and minerals!) through one handy, liquid-y vehicle: Diet Coke Plus (DC+, click picture to left for larger image).

Diet Coke Plus

With this new soda, there’s no need to watch what you eat. Screw salads, weight watchers, even vegetables. Drink DC+, you’ll get all the vitamins and minerals your body craves, PLUS caffeine and sodium. IT’S THAT EASY. Thanks, Coca-Cola, Inc!!!

I just found this beauty at Wal-Mart today. I’d heard about it, but didn’t realize it had been released. Brilliant idea don’t you think (Hello, my name is sarcasm)? I’m not sure I get it, but be prepared because Coke and Pepsi are going to be releasing many new flavors (or remixes of existing flavors) in the coming months. Coke just released Diet Coke Plus and Vault Red Blitz (see next article). Pepsi will be releasing Diet Pepsi Max this summer and a special Halo 3 version of Mountain Dew in August. Pepsi also released in limited markets a new Diet Pepsi Jazz flavor, Caramel & Cream. This makes for an interesting summer, for me at least as I love new soda flavors.

Anway, the taste of DC+ is sweeter than regular Diet Coke. The sweetener used in DC+ is actually a mixture of the sweeteners they use in regular Diet Coke and Coke Zero. So the taste is somewhat in between Coke Zero and Diet Coke. This is to say that it’s better than regular Diet Coke (which I hate), but not as good as Coke Zero (which I really like).

And hey, you are also getting some vitamins and minerals to boot, so it’s all win-win baby. WIN-WIN. Drink up.

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Death by Taurine: Energy Drink Reviews Part III

Posted in Coca Cola, Death By Taurine, humor, reviews, soda with tags , , , , on April 16, 2007 by Paxton

Sodapalooza

Checking the traffic stats of my blog I noticed that the energy drink reviews I wrote last year have become moderately popular (by moderately, I mean two or three people OTHER than my mother have read them). Since I wrote those articles, a few new energy drinks have popped up in stores so I thought I would take a crack at reviewing this new group of drinks.

If you missed the first two groups of reviews:
Click here for Death by Taurine Part I
Click here for Death by Taurine Part II

Now that those formalities are over with, let’s take a look at 5 new energy drinks and see if they are the real deal, or if they should be tossed into the landfill along with that giant pile of Atari E.T. game cartridges. Let’s find out.

Vault Red BlitzVault Red Blitz – I reviewed Vault and Sugar-Free Vault (now called Vault Zero) in Part II of Death By Taurine. In short, it’s a very sweet tasting Citrus soda with no energy kick. I was pretty harsh to Vault originally, but I’ve grown to enjoy Vault Zero a little more lately. Despite the confusing marketing as a “hybrid energy soda”, I stand by the opinion that Vault is rockin’ no energy boost whatsoever. Despite this, Vault must be selling fairly well because Coke just released the “berry-infused” Red Blitz. “Berry Infused”?! Could we be a little less specific? What kind of berry? Raspberry? Cherry? Boysenberry? Snosberry? WHAT?! Well, I think it’s cherry, but it’s hard to tell because the berry flavor is actually just as generic as the moniker. The generic berry flavor is good mixed with Vault’s base citrus flavor, but once again, Vault didn’t get the memo that energy sodas are supposed to give you a boost. I’m also sad that there is no Vault Zero Red Blitz, but I hope they release one soon because I would drink it. Energy Fiend says it would take 195 cans of Vault to kill me.

Enviga – Like many things Coke related (see Vault), this drink has had a huge marketing campaign. A lot of it extolling the virtues of it’s calorie burning properties. Yes, according to Coke, the green tea extract and other herbal ingredients cause you to burn more calories digesting the drink than the drink contains, thereby creating a negative calorie situation. This is, of course, absurd, so Coke is in a little controversy right now about false advertising. All that aside, the drink is only okay. The AMC theaters my wife and I go to give these out for free if you are a MovieWatcher member and buy a combo. So I’ve tried the Green Tea and Berry flavors for free. I actually bought the Peach version but had to give myself a V-8 slap in the forehead after tasting it because it was sweeter and not as good as the other too. All three, though, are almost too sweet and sugary for my taste, but if Jack Bauer had me tied to a chair and was threatening to kill my wife and shoot me in the kneecap if I didn’t pick one, then I’d say Berry is better. Give them a try, if you don’t like them throw back a Coolah instead (see review below). Energy Fiend says it would take 136.5 cans of Enviga to kill me.

Full Throttle Blue Demon – I reviewed Full Throttle in Death by Taurine Part II. I said it is my favorite tasting energy drink, but there is no energy kick whatsoever. Well, Coke released a Blue Agave flavored Full Throttle aimed at the Hispanic market recently so I decided to try it. This flavor is apparently named after a famous Mexican wrestler called Blue Demon, and the blue agave flavor is very popular south of the border. It definitely tastes different than original Full Throttle. The taste is closer to the SoBe energy drink I reviewed in Death by Taurine Part I. It’s a more fruity and less Mt Dew taste. I honestly didn’t really like it. Reminded me too much of the SoBe debacle, although I was able to finish this can whereas I was not able to finish the SoBe can. Again, like it’s Full Throttle brethren, Blue Demon forgot to stand in line when they were passing out energy boosts in Soda Heaven so it comes to the table without one. It’s like Coke is “waving its private parts” in the general direction of the energy drink market. Release versions of their regular soda with a little more caffeine and call it a day. Well I say “Nuts to you, Coke!” Energy Fiend says it would take 96.81 cans of Full Throttle to kill me.

Mountain Dew AMP – You may see the Mountain Dew logo on the can and ask yourself, “what is the difference between Amp and MDX?” Yourself probably won’t have an answer. But my answer is, “one is an energy drink and one is an energy soda.” WTF does that mean?! I don’t know, Coke started this whole “energy soda” business with Vault. It’s just Coke and Pepsi trying to create new crap out of old crap for us to buy like the good little consumers we are. So…..I bought it. Regardless of the shoddy marketing, Amp tastes very similar to Full Throttle and has the same missing energy boost. The name says it all, it’s an amped up Mountain Dew (caffeine-wise). Also, Amp recently, like Vault, got a flavor extention called Amp Overdrive. It’s a cherry flavored version, much like Red Blitz. I think I like Amp Overdrive better than the original Amp, but not as much as Vault Red Blitz. I did get a noticeable energy kick from drinking the Amp Overdrive, but it may be because I drank the “Big Rig” can which holds double the normal amount of drink. Does the world really need a “Big Rig” of Amp Overdrive? I mean, really? They should change the name from Big Rig to “The Urine-ator”. It gave me the longest pee ever. Seriously, it was like the perfect storm. Unbelievable. But I digress. I had the Amp Overdrive at 8am and I was still buzzing by bedtime. That’s some serious energy kickage. There is no sugar free Amp, so you are drinking over 200 calories with each can. A good choice if you don’t mind the extra calories. Energy Fiend says it would take 182 cans of Mt Dew Amp to kill me.

Coolah – Coolah is an Australian energy drink (CRIKEY!!) based on another drink called Solo. Hey Australia, why hasn’t there been a Crocodile Dundee energy drink, or a Crocodile Hunter energy drink? WHY?! The world is begging for them!! NOW!! Anywho, Coolah has a surprisingly mild, lemony taste. In fact, it’s taste is extremely similar to Sprite, with a little extra lemon flavor. It’s very good. Unfortunately it comes in the newer 16oz cans with which I have a little trouble finishing (much like the “Big Rig” above). Who really needs this much energy drink? You could wake the dead with cans of this size. It’s crazy. With regular soda you only get 12oz in a can, but with energy drinks that have twice the caffeine, sugar and taurine (and, sometimes, calories), you get an extra 4oz. Why? It’s ludicrous…and I don’t mean the rapper. The energy kick is pretty bitchin’ too. Wow, it’s like I’m sitting in a wind tunnel, but I’m actually just at my desk. This is one of the nicest buzzes I’ve had in a while (legally, of course, haha). That energy high lasted until bedtime, too, with very little energy crash. This may take the crown as my new favorite energy drink. So grab a can of this magic elixir and enjoy the ride, bro. Energy Fiend says it would take 91 cans of Coolah to kill me.

Updated!! Death By Taurine Part IV now online!

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TGIF and being the “WCB”

Posted in humor, personal on April 13, 2007 by Paxton

Happy Friday, everyone. It’s almost 4pm, so it’s almost time for me to blow this piece for the weekend.

A few quick notes to finish off the week:

Water CoolerFor the second time this week I had to change the bottle on the water cooler in the break room. Both times this week I’ve walked in and the bottle is completely empty. I KNOW I’m not the only one in this building drinking water. And even if I was, I’m not drinking two water cooler sized bottles a week. That’s absurd. Does no one else know how to do it or do they not want to bother? WTF?! When did I become the “water cooler bitch” (WCB)? The actual problem is, that I’m going to keep changing it whenever I see it’s empty instead of forcing someone else to do it. But I need my H2O, man!!

MimsMan alive, the radio is playing the crap out of “This Is Why I’m Hot” by rapper Mims. It’s like the radio is playing it so much to beat me into submission and finally start liking it. You know what, the radio wins. I like it. Well, I understand that the song is completely stupid and nonsensical, but I can’t help singing along and enjoying listening to it. It’s also good to work out to. So, there you have it, incessant radio play will actually force me to like a song. I’m so easy.

Have a good weekend everyone, I’ll see you next week with Death by Taurine III, the third in my series of energy drink reviews.

PEACE!!!

My Pictures from Paris

Posted in France, Paris, personal, roadtrip on April 11, 2007 by Paxton

Bon jour, everyone. I finally edited down and uploaded the pictures my wife and took in Paris. We took close to a hundred pics, but I picked some of the best ones and added them to a Flickr set. I’ll be going through and adding some more maybe this weekend, but there are 39 photos currently uploaded. Check them out, let me know what you think.

Click here to go to my Paris Set on Flickr

Want a quick preview? Okay.

Paris 2What is this? Is this Little Red Riding Hood’s house? The 7 Dwarves? WTF?! No, this is one of the 15 or so buildings in a little village that Marie Antoinette used as a getaway. It’s tucked away on the grounds of the palace at Versailles. Pretty cool, huh? I thought so.

Paris 1This is me on the second level of the Eiffel Tower. If you look, you can see the barely restrained fear in my eyes. I’m pretty scared of heights. When I was in New York, I went to the top of the Empire State Building. It was all I could do to not completely lose all composure and drop to the ground in the fetal position. IT WAS SO HIGH. Well, the second level of the Eiffel Tower is higher than the Empire State Building but you get more room to walk around. It wasn’t as bad as I expected.

There are 37 more pics in my Flickr set with some of my comments. Check it out, hope you enjoy it.

I have a new Energy Drink Review artlcle coming up next week (maybe even Friday) and some more good stuff. Stay Tuned.

Wacky French Swag

Posted in food, France, humor, Paris, roadtrip, soda with tags , , , on April 2, 2007 by Paxton

ParisBoy, howdy, is it good to be back in the good ‘ol US of A. My wife and I got back from France last weekend around 10pm on Saturday. Crazy, crazy adventures, let me tell you, and most of them were in the airport on the way back. That’s another tale for another time, though.

Paris itself, though was awesome. Great food, great sites to see, unbelievable. However, it was a little colder than this thin-blooded Floridian would have liked. 36 degrees was like the HIGH. Seriously. I mean, penguins don’t live in that kind of craziness. BRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Anywho, The Eiffel Tower and the Louve museum are both immensely more impressive in person than anything you would expect. But there are many other, less well-known things to check out while you are in Paris. How about their version of fast food restaurants? Seeing the French version of a McDonald’s Happy Meal…how can that NOT put a smile on your face? How about crazy French supermarkets? They have so much cool crap we don’t get. This is what I’ll show to you in today’s article, a few things that maybe you wouldn’t notice while bopping around the City of Lights.

Ayez l’amusement!

Foreign SodasThe first cool place I’ll talk about is the French Supermarket. When we went there, a place called Mona Prix, I found a kaleidescope of items that I’d never seen before. Alot of those items being cheese, but not all. Check out the lovely ladies in the picture to the left. Pretty little maids (i.e. foreign sodas) all in a row. As you can see, Diet Coke is called Coca-Cola Light outside the US. I’ve talked about this phenomena before. In the picture on the far right you can see Coke Light with Lime, which is still available in the US (but not for long). Second from the left you can see Coke Light Sango. It’s orange flavored Diet Coke and it was just released in France. The idea of an orangy aftertaste in Diet Coke is actually orders of magnitude cooler than the actual taste. Have you tried Listerine’s Natural Citrus flavor? That’s what this tastes like. Imagine grabbing a big bottle of Coke Light Sango after walking all over Paris. It’s hot, your thirsty, this orange flavored Diet Coke is gonna taste gooooooooooooooood…until you up-end the bottle and it comes cascading down your throat. It will take a few seconds, then you’re brain will register that you are chugging citrus-y listerine and start gagging and you begin spit-coughing the drink all over yourself. At least, this is what happened to me.

You can also see Pepsi Max and Pepsi Max Citron in the picture. Pepsi Max is just the foreign version of Pepsi One. Pepsi Max Citron is a lemon lime flavored Pepsi Max (obviously). Not bad, but not great.

Pomme de PainOur first evening there we were walking down one of the more popular streets, Champs Elysees, looking at the sites and wondering where to eat our first meal. We weren’t ready to sit down in a cafe and order as we were still jet-lagged and unsure of ourselves in our new surroundings. So, we decided to walk into a little pre-made sandwich place called Pomme de Pain and get something quick. Even though this place probably amounted to the French version of Subway, we thought it was cool. Let me tell you, in France, they love their Jambon/Fromage sandwiches (Ham & Cheese). That’s almost all they had on the menu, so we got it. When I bit into my sandwich, though, I had to do a double take because my mind detected something else in my sandwich besides ham and cheese. WHAT WAS THAT, I asked myself? I DON’T KNOW, I answered. So I opened up the bread and I could see that they put butter on the bread. WHAT?! BUTTER?! Let me pause for a moment to let that last statement sink in. Mull it around, consider the implications, CSI-style. Are you finished? Good. That’s right, I said BUTTER was on my ham & cheese sandwich. Why didn’t I think of this? Buttering my ham sandwich? Holy crap, this is GENIUS! Like Edison inventing the electric light or Einstein tinkering with the equation for energy, this is something that can change the course of recorded history. It rocked my totally American face right off my body. If I took a picture of my head right now, you wouldn’t see a face because it was ROCKED clean off my body. For reals.

The next cool thing I noticed was France’s version of a McDonald’s. It’s called…..wait for it……….wait for it…………..Quality Burger Restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly, the Quality Burger Restaurant. See a pic here This particular location in the picture sits right next door to the infamous Moulin Rouge. The coolest thing they have on the menu? Sandwiches they like to call the Double Effect! (see pic to the left) These sandwiches are like two burgers fused together into one. It looks like two burgers french kissing (awww, how appropriate). And you can get different versions, like the Chicken/Fish sandwich, the grilled/fried Chicken, Burger/Chicken sandwich and many other variations. Those French are nothing if not clever.

I really wanted to eat at a Quality Burger restaurant but I had to question the logic in flying to France in order to eat at a fast food burger place. Speaking of, at the French McDonald’s, they had a breakfast menu item called the McCafe. It’s a cup of hot coffee with a raisin pastry rod on the side. Very American-French, like a beret, or French dressing, which, by the way, is just called Dressing in France. haha…just kidding.

Stay tuned, I’ll have more France themed posts in the future.

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